What is the best way to handle your kid’s illness or injury? I’m talking a little about the actual treatment and a lot about how to teach them. The opportunity to teach our kids the world doesn’t stop because they have a cold or a paper cut.
I try hard not to make them feel as though I don’t care. I also really don’t want to raise a bunch of entitled wimps. So how do you balance this? Personally, I’ve taken to attempting to teach them how to take care of themselves.
The way I do this really is by believing that water and sleep are like Unicorn’s Blood and can fix anything. Maybe sometimes antibiotics or stitches will do better, but even then, I’m willing to bet water and sleep will still help. But, really in most situations I prescribe sleep and/or water. And I often also apply this to behavior issues.
“Why are you yelling at your sister because she poured your milk the wrong way when she went out of her way to pour you a freaking drink in the first place?!- Right, you stayed up too late!”
“Your head hurts and you might vomit? – chug water!”
“You feel like you’re getting a cold? – chug water, get sleep! Go!”
Really. It works. 99.9% of the time. It’s science really. I can’t tell you the actual scientific reasons, but I’m 99.9% certain this is true. See what I did there?
Opportunity to Teach Our Kids
In case you’re wondering this post isn’t only about how I shove water and sleep down my kid’s throats in attempt to resolve all issues ever. It’s about that, but even more so it’s about this really amazing opportunity to teach our kids how to be resilient.
What I really want to talk about is how we raise children who become functioning members of society and who don’t harbor the belief that the world owes them something. Think about it. Has the world ever stopped for your cold? It hasn’t, right?
So why should we teach our kids that it does? I’m not saying that when one of my kids are sick I slap them on the ass, tell them to suck it up and move along. But I also hold the expectation that they can help themselves get better and should. And the most basic way I teach them to do this is with water and sleep because it’s really the easiest solution, requires no expertise, and more often than not is actually the solution. [See above about Unicorn’s Blood].
Drinking Plenty of Water
Ella, my youngest, is 16 months old. I’m not telling her that she needs to be making sure she’s drinking plenty of water, getting rest and holding the expectation that she does this for herself. BUT I am pushing extra water and sleep when I can tell she’s off, either not feeling well or being a jerk. The big kids are a bit different.
Whatever it is we’re dealing with; sickness, injury or behavior we first break it down. What is it? How long has it existed? What do we think we need? Then we do it. I’m not pouring over them, cooing in their ear about how I’m going to make it all better. I am present and I’m sensitive and I’m clear that I love them, which I tell them all the time anyways. But no, I’m taking this time to teach them to take care of themselves.
And it’s working. They see it too and honestly the benefits are far reaching, because their self-efficacy, the belief they have in themselves, is increasing and even more than that they’re becoming resilient.
My son gets a headache at the beginning of every sports season and then throws up. It’s because he’s dehydrated. This has been happening for 2 years despite my telling him the solution- “drink more water, sleep in when you can”. This past football season that stopped happening because he started listening and started drinking at least two full bottles of water a couple hours before practice.
Sure, I bought him two cool water bottles that he picked out. Sure, I’d remind him in the morning to fill his water bottles and be sure to drink them. But, no I didn’t hold his hand and tell him it was okay that he didn’t take care of himself where he could have and I certainly did not fill up his water bottles for him. Because that’s not how the world works, and it shouldn’t be. When we need help we should ask for help, but when we can help ourselves we should. And that is what I want my kids to learn.
We are Ultimately Responsible for Ourselves
No matter what; sickness, illness or behavior we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. Obviously there are times when things are beyond our control. Appendicitis comes to mind. I don’t think water or rest will stop that one, BUT I do know it’ll aid in our recovery! (I’m very stubborn and keen on making this point!) I tell my kids all the time it is OKAY to feel like shit. It is OKAY to be pissed. And it’s absolutely positively OKAY to cry when something fucking hurt. BUT it is not okay to act like a dick because of it and its is not okay to think the world will stop and serve you because of it.
I do, I really do worry all the time that I’m doing it wrong. That my children will reflect back one day and think “God, mom you were such a bitch.” But I also hold this belief that if they are thinking that at least it’ll be in corner office raking in a six-figure salary! Ha, kidding! Well maybe not, I suppose, if that’s their dream.
The point really is, there are always things within our control. Things that we do not take control of because we don’t think we can or maybe even don’t want to. But we should and it could be so simple. And when we are sick, or injured, or struggling in some other way and Unicorn’s blood is not available, we should try to help ourselves in the most basic way by starting with water and sleep, OR the things we can control.
Someday it Will be Just Them on Their Own
We can and SHOULD teach this to our children. Teach them not just that water and sleep are like Unicorn’s Blood. But teach them to first always try to help themselves and then ask for help. Not because asking for help is wrong, but because the world doesn’t stop for anyone. Someday it will be just them on their own. The difference between good and great, successful and really successful? Is this: know when and how to help yourself. Resilience.
Snuggle your kids when they’re sick and even when they’re not. Go a little easy on them because they are sick or hurt or upset or even just because they are fucking kids. But resist the temptation to do it all for them. Especially when they are ill or hurt because the world won’t and it shouldn’t.